Quelle est la quenelle?

-CC-BY-3.0, Jack Rabbit Slim

Dieudonné et la Quenelle. Attrib: Jack Rabbit Slim's, CC-BY-3.0.


French footballer Nicolas Anelka, who plays in the English Premier League, has gotten international attention by using the quenelle gesture as a goal celebration, a reverse Nazi salute. The gesture was created by controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, who makes openly anti-Semitic statements (Sample: “When I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I think to myself: Gas chambers … too bad they no longer exist.” Cohen is a French journalist who is Jewish.)

Dieudonné defends his stance by saying that he is anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. Yet he attacked the man and not his purported attitudes – clearly these kinds of jokes are anti-Semitic, not anti-Zionist.

The quenelle has been linked to rising anti-Semitism in France; figures from 2012 show a 59% rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France. The quenelle has been linked to anti-government rhetoric, but it is often a government identified with Jewish conspiracies in a country increasingly right wing and ultra-nationalist. The ultra-nationalists represented by Marie Le Pen and the Front National want France like it used to be (white, non-Jewish) and are increasingly using the quenelle gesture. On the other hand, the North Africans, ironically one of the usual targets of the Front, are using the quenelle as both anti-government and anti-Jewish. They both seem to agree on two things: That their government is pathetic, and that Jews are still the scapegoat of choice.

Such frustrations with the government are real, particularly on the part of the North Africans, most Muslim and most 2nd and 3rd generation emigre’s from France’s former North African colonies, who are much poorer than the average French person and who suffer a much higher unemployment rate than the average in a country with a high national rate. But blaming them on the Jews?

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: Everything changes, everything stays the same. Dreyfus is still rolling over in his grave.

To his credit, French President Francois Hollande recently made a clear statement condemning the openly anti-Semitic nature of this behavior.

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